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Berkeley school renaming delayed after controversy

A mural of longtime political activist Yuri Kochiyama
Flickr / Creative Commons
A mural of longtime political activist Yuri Kochiyama

A decision to rename Berkeley’s Washington Elementary School will wait until the end of the school year after a dispute over a name on the shortlist.

Lifelong civil rights activist Yuri Kochiyama worked alongside Malcolm X on racial equality. She spoke out for reparations for Japanese-Americans forced into American internment camps during World War Two - something she and her family endured.

Berkeleyside reports Kochiyama’s name was being considered as a possible new name for the school but was removed from a shortlist of names after a parent found out that Kochiyama once said she admired Osama Bin Laden.

Kochiyama’s name was removed from the shortlist last month– without the consultation of the renaming committee. Now, some city officials and parents at the school put the name back on the list.

Some parents argue that prematurely removing Kochiyama’s name from the list of finalists - without a full discussion on the merits – is an erasure of Asian culture.

Berkeley Unified Superintendent Brent Stephens apologized for the handling of the situation.The names of Kochiyama and six others will be considered before a decision is made at the end of the school year.